Financial Aid for International Students
Published July 7, 2022
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- The U.S. is one of the most expensive countries to attend college.
- International students often pay more in tuition and fees to study in the U.S.
- There are financial aid options like scholarships and loans for international students.
- International students should complete the FAFSA to identify all financial aid options.
International students studying in the U.S. face many challenges, including the high cost of college. Studying in the U.S. can be expensive as the tuition and fees are much higher than in other countries. International students typically pay out-of-state tuition and fees, which averaged $26,382 for undergraduates at public four-year schools in 2018-2019, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
In addition to tuition and room and board, international students have additional expenses like travel and moving costs, visa fees, and phone and banking expenses. Financial aid is typically limited for international students, but there are resources for international students that can help them pay the high costs of studying in the U.S.
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Can International Students Apply for the FAFSA?
Even with careful budget planning, most students need financial aid to cover college costs. Students use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine if they're eligible for institutional and federal aid like merit- and need-based scholarships, grants, the Federal Work-Study Program, student loans, and more.
International students aren't eligible for federal aid, but they are eligible for institutional aid — scholarships and grants schools offer. Colleges with large international student populations may have more scholarships for international students. As part of their college preparations, international students should complete the FAFSA to see if they are eligible for institutional aid.
Scholarships for International Students in the U.S.
In addition to the international student scholarships below, check your country's embassy or consulate in the U.S., your country's government office in your country, and your college or career school's financial aid office for more international student scholarship options.
American Association of University Women International Fellowships
Who's eligible? International female graduate and postdoctoral students
Award amount: $18,000 (master's degree), $20,000 (doctoral degree), $30,000 (postdoctoral study)
The AAUW has been awarding international fellowships since 1917. The fellowship is for international female graduate and postdoctoral students who intend to pursue careers in their home countries.
AAUW also grants some awards to Graduate Women International members for study or research in any country other than their own, including foreign branches of U.S. institutions.
British Council IELTS Prize
Who's eligible? Test-takers living in Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Lebanon, Nigeria, and South Africa who will begin undergraduate or postgraduate studies in 2023-24 at an educational institution that accepts IELTS as part of its admission process
Deadline: September 30, 2022
Award amount: £3,000
Applicants must take an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam with the British Council between September 1, 2021, and September 15, 2022, and be able to produce a valid IELTS score of 5.5 or above. Recipients can study at any educational institution that requires IELTS as part of its admission process.
Fulbright Foreign Student Program
Who's eligible? Graduate students from more than 160 countries
Deadline: Varies by country
Award amount: Varies by country
The Fulbright Foreign Student Program is an international academic exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Since 1946, it has supported 400,000 students from 165 countries. The Fulbright Foreign Student Program awards about 4,000 Fulbright scholarships to international students each year.
Scholarship eligibility and selection vary by country. The Fulbright Scholar Program also offers additional programs and funding for non-U.S. scholars.
Margaret McNamara Education Grants U.S.-Canada Program
Who's eligible? Female undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students from developing countries
Deadline: January 15, 2023
Award amount: Up to $15,000
These education grants are for women from these developing countries already enrolled in accredited universities in the U.S. and Canada. Applicants must be at least 25 years old, demonstrate financial need, and be "committed to working for the well-being of women and children." Applicants do not need to be earning a degree -- they can be enrolled in a certificate program.
MPower Financing Global Citizen Scholarship
Who's eligible? International and DACA college students
Deadline: July 15, 2022
Award amount: $10,000 (Grand Prize), $2,000 (Runner-up), and $2,000 (Honorable Mention)
This is a scholarship program for international and DACA college students. Applicants must be accepted to or enrolled in an MPOWER partner school. The application requires completing an application form and submitting an essay.
Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program
Who's eligible? Citizens from these World Bank member developing countries who are applying for a master's degree program in a development-related topic, including economic policy management, tax policy, and infrastructure management
Deadline: February 28, 2022 or May 27, 2022, depending on your program
Award amount: Varies
Recipients must attend at least one of 26 participating master's degree programs outside of the applicant's country of citizenship and residence.
The scholarship covers the duration of the graduate program or two years, whichever is shorter. The scholarship includes two-way economy air travel, $500 travel allowances for each trip, tuition, cost of basic medical insurance, and monthly allowance for living expenses, including accommodation, food, and textbooks.
Rotary Foundation Global Scholarship Grants for Development
Who's eligible? International graduate students studying peace and conflict prevention/resolution, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy, or economic and community development.
Award amount: At least $30,000
Rotary clubs around the world fund graduate-level coursework or research at universities in countries with a host Rotary club or district outside the applicant's home country. The scholarship covers tuition, room and board, school supplies, and travel for one to four academic years. Eligibility requirements vary by Rotary club.
International Student Loans
Sometimes scholarships, grants, savings, and budgeting are not enough to cover the cost of an education. Many students take out student loans to help pay for their education. There are two types of loans: federal loans, which are offered by the U.S. government, and private loans, offered by private companies.
International students are only eligible for private loans. International students have several options for private loans. The benefits of private loans include:
- The ability to pay for the college of your choice
- Having enough money to pay for tuition, room and board, and textbooks
Some downsides to taking out private loans include:
- High interest rates
- Fewer repayment options
- May need a co-signer and particular income and credit score requirements
Other Financial Aid for International Students
International students may fund their education through a variety of other funding sources, including
- Government scholarships
- Bilateral student exchange programs
- On-campus or off-campus jobs that adhere to USCIS guidelines for students on F-1 and M-1 visas
- Family contributions
- Personal savings
Financial Aid from the Country You're From
Some countries offer financial aid for their students to study in the U.S., including:
- Canada: The Organization of American States (OAS) Academic Scholarships Program awards scholarships for master's degree or Ph.D. students to study at a university or educational institution in an OAS Member State.
- India: Scholarship options include Fulbright-Nehru Fellowships and Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation Scholarships.
- Japan: The U.S.-Japan Council's Toshizo Watanabe Endowed Scholarship Fund and the Japan-United States Educational Commission offer approximately 40-50 Fulbright grants for Japanese citizens to study or conduct research in the U.S. The Japan-United States Friendship Commission offers grants for Japanese students who want to study in the U.S.
- United Kingdom: Funding is available from The US-UK Fulbright Commission's Fulbright Scholar Awards. The BUNAC Educational Scholarship Trust Travel Awards offer study abroad scholarships for U.K. students studying for a postgraduate degree in the U.S. or Canada.
Financial Aid from Your College
Institutional financial aid is funding offered by your college, university, or educational institution. Institutional financial aid for international students is often limited. Institutional aid may include:
- Merit-based scholarships
- Need-based scholarships
- Fellowships and assistantships for graduate students
If you don't receive enough financial aid from your school, you may consider appealing for more financial aid.
Can International Students Work in the U.S.?
International students are not eligible for the Federal Work-Study Program. International students may be able to work on-campus (or off-campus after their first year) and make money while in college.
However, international students must find a job related to their course of study and adhere to USCIS guidelines for students on F-1 and M-1 visas. You can use the money you earn to help pay tuition, room and board, and other costs associated with studying in the U.S.
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